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Frenchman, actor kidnapped in Mexico released, French foreign ministry says

A screen grab of officers from Mexico's federal police.
A screen grab of officers from Mexico's federal police. FRANCE 24

A French citizen and a Mexican actor kidnapped in a national park in central Mexico were freed Monday, officials said.

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The two men, identified as Frederic Michel and Alejandro Sandi, were traveling in all-terrain vehicles in the park around the Nevado de Toluca volcano when they were ambushed and abducted on Sunday, witnesses said.

"Both the French and Mexican nationals have been freed," a Mexican government official told AFP.

The French and Mexican governments later also confirmed the men had been freed, without giving further details.

A source with Mexico's anti-kidnapping unit told AFP both victims were unharmed.

The news came shortly after Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the kidnappers had demanded a ransom.

"There have been communications, and a ransom payment was, in effect, requested," Durazo told journalists.

"We hope to have good news very soon."

 The French foreign ministry thanked the Mexican authorities for their "vital help" in ensuring the victims were freed.

Mexico's anti-kidnapping office vowed to continue the investigation "with the aim of finding those responsible."

Police and National Guard troops had launched a search in the area around the snow-capped volcano, which is located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Mexico City and is popular with hikers and campers.

Sandi is an actor who played a secondary role in the TV series "Lord of the Skies," a drama about drug traffickers broadcast by US-based Latin American network Telemundo.

Two Mexican actresses traveling with him said gunmen intercepted them and took their car by force, but let them go free.

"We were on our way to visit the Nevado de Toluca when armed men blocked the road and took our car," actress and singer Esmeralda Ugalde said in a video posted on Twitter, speaking alongside fellow actress Vanessa Arias.

Mexico has seen a surge in kidnappings this year: 1,700 from January to October, a rate of more than five per day -- a 38 percent increase on the same period last year, according to the watchdog group Alto al Secuestro (Halt Kidnapping).

Foreigners are regularly targeted, but details are often scarce, and authorities rarely give information on the negotiations leading to victims' release.

Leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December 2018, is struggling to rein in violent crime widely blamed on Mexico's drug cartels and other criminal gangs.

This year appears on track to break Mexico's murder record, with 28,741 so far.

(AFP)

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